Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 112, Supplement 1, pp 7–22 | Cite as

Prospecting history leading to the discovery of Botswana’s diamond mines: from artefacts to Lesedi La Rona

  • Michiel C. J. de WitEmail author
Original Paper


Bechuanaland/Botswana has a long and colourful history in exploration and mining. Here these activities are subdivided into three phases: pre-historic, historic and modern. Quarrying stone in Botswana was ongoing 500,000 years ago during the Early Stone Age (ESA). Actual mining of stones probably only started during the Middle Stone Age (MSA) i.e. post 250,000 BP, and the first prehistoric hard rock mining of specularite and limonite, likely started during the Late Stone Age (LSA) 20,000 to 2,000 BP. In east Botswana iron and copper were mined from AD 800 onwards; the mining of gold started in the thirteenth century. Historic mining started with the re-discovery of gold close to Francistown in 1865 and lasted until the 1950s. Rumours of diamonds in Bechuanaland had already surfaced in the 1880s, and it was Ngamiland, in the northwest, that was first explored systematically for diamonds and gold between 1896 and 1899. A joint initiative between Anglo American and De Beers started serious prospecting parts of eastern Bechuanaland between 1932 and 1938; and in 1938 the first diamond finds in Bechuanaland were reported. Modern mining and exploration started with the signing of an agreement in 1959, allowing Consolidated African Selection Trust Ltd. (CAST) into the Bamangwato Tribal Reserve. CAST found a few diamonds in the Motloutse River, but concluded that these were reworked and dropped the exploration rights. De Beers believed that these diamonds had come from west of the Motloutse headwaters, across the watershed in the Kalahari. This ultimately led to the discovery of the Orapa kimberlite field in 1967, a year after Botswana became independent. This discovery triggered a major exploration boom across Botswana adding important diamond-bearing kimberlites such as at Letlhakane (1968), Jwaneng (1973), Gope (1981) and Lerala (1991).


Diamond exploration Bechuanaland Bamangwato 



The author is indebted to Gavin Lamont and Chris Jennings for having shared their exploration experiences. Catrien van Waarden, Manfred Marx, Jim Gibson, Andy Moore, Leon Daniels, Maarten de Wit, Eddie Köstlin, Barry Bayly, Mike Roberts and Marty McFarlane are thanked for input and discussions of various aspects of this historical summary. Reviews by Andrew Macdonald, Thomas Stachel and Jock Robey greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tsodilo Resources Ltd.GaboroneBotswana
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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